10:09 am Jan. 14, 20131
A month after a gunman killed 20 small children and six adults at a school in Connecticut, Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought his campaign for gun control to Baltimore.
"This is not a constitutional question," he said, speaking from a dais at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University. "It's a question of political courage."
The mayor has made gun control his primary focus on the national stage, and he has seized on the political opportunity presented by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre to pressure Congress and the president to pass stricter gun control legislation.
Meanwhile, the organization he co-founded and funds, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, released a new commercial calling for more gun control, and issued a report detailing Congress's complicity with the National Rifle Association in suppressing government-funded research into gun violence.
In all these forums, including the Post interview in which he was asked specifically about it, Bloomberg called for lawmakers to act without suggesting he's siding with one party against the other. In the Post interview, he said he'd rather try to change the pro-gun House Republican conference than dislodge it: "Somebody got them the way they are now,” he said. “Why can’t you change them?”
President Barack Obama has, like the mayor, decided to take advantage of a rare shift in the national mood regarding guns, charging Vice President Joe Biden with leading a gun control task force, which is expected to issue its recommendations this week.
The mayor's chief policy advisor, John Feinblatt, "sat directly across from Vice President Biden in the White House meetings with gun-control advocates and victims groups last week," according to Jason Horowitz in the Washington Post.
Today, the mayor said he, too, has spoken with Biden "numerous times since the Sandy Hook massacre."
This morning, the mayor enumerated, once again, the seven steps he thinks Washington must take to stem gun violence, including three that would require approval from National Rifle Association-backed members of the House: background checks for all gun sales, including the 6 million or so per year that take place at gun shows and between individuals; the elevation of gun trafficking to a federal crime; and limiting the availability of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
"When the gun lobby raises the Second Amendment, it is nothing but a red herring," said the mayor. "It's time for Second Amendment defenders in Congress to call them on it."
He also listed four actions he'd like to see Obama take that require only his acquiescence: order all federal agencies to submit relevant data to the federal background check system, order the Justice Department to ramp up prosecutions of people who lie during background checks, make a recess appointment to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which hasn't had a director in six years, and stop supporting the Tiahrt provisions, which make it more difficult for the ATF to prosecute gun traffickers. (They're explained here).
For the first time, Bloomberg took particular aim at Congress's role in limiting government-funded research into the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
Thanks to restrictions on funding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spends about $100,000 on research into firearms injuries, out of an annual budget of nearly $6 billion, according to Bloomberg. The National Institutes for Health spends less than $1 million studying firearm violence, out of an annual budget of $31 billion.
"When elected officials try to muzzle scientific research and bury the truth they make our society less free and less safe," said Bloomberg.
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